needed beyond what was in the boxes had to be materials that were readily available and inexpensive.
Ms. R. knew that planning was a challenge for these third graders. She moved among groups, listening and adding comments. When she felt that discussions had gone as far as they could go, she asked each group to draw a picture of the instruments the children thought they would like to make, write a short piece on how they thought they would make them, and make a list of the materials that they would need. Ms. R. made a list of what was needed, noted which children and which groups might profit from discussing their ideas with one another, and suggested that the children think about their task, collect materials if they could, and come to school in the next week prepared to build their instruments.
Ms. R. invited several sixth graders to join the class during science time the following week, knowing that the third grade students might need their help in working with the materials. Some designs were simple and easy to implement; e.g., one group was making a rubber-band player by stretching different widths and lengths of rubber bands around a plastic gallon milk container with the top cut off. Another group was making drums of various sizes using some thick cardboard tubes and pieces of thin rubber roofing material. For many, the designs could not be translated into reality, and much change and trial and error ensued. One group planned to build a guitar and designed a special shape for the sound box, but after the glued sides of their original box collapsed twice, the group decided to use the wooden box that someone had added to the supply table. In a few cases, the original design was abandoned, and a new design emerged as the instrument took shape.
At the end of the second week, Ms. R. set aside 2 days for the students to reflect on what they had done individually and as a class. On Friday, they were once again to draw and write about their instruments. Where groups had worked together on an instrument, one report was to be prepared. On the next Monday, each group was to make a brief presentation of the instrument, what it could do, how the design came to be, and what challenges had been faced. As a final effort, the class could prepare a concert for the other third grades.
In making the musical instruments, students relied on the knowledge and understanding developed while studying sound, as well as the principles of design, to make an instrument that produced sound.
The assessment task for the musical instruments follows. The titles emphasize some important components of the assessment process.
SCIENCE CONTENT: The K-4 science content standard on science and technology is supported by the idea that students should be able to communicate the purpose of a design. The K-4 physical science standard is supported by the fundamental understanding of the characteristics of sound, a form of energy.
ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY: Students demonstrate the products of their design work to their peers and reflect on what the project taught them about the nature of sound and the process of design.